“I’ve always wanted to use that space,” said Barbara Abbott, who made McKinley monument the final “secret stop” of the season-ending event of her schedule of Canton Food Tours, progressive dinners that combine art, history and fine food.
As singer Brittany Cary intoned “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” the notes and lyrics rose to the dome of the McKinley National Memorial.
President William McKinley, his casket in the center of the memorial’s rotunda, no doubt would have been pleased with the performance.
It was one of McKinley’s favorite hymns.
“I’ve always wanted to use that space,” said Barbara Abbott, who made McKinley monument the final “secret stop” of the season-ending event of her schedule of Canton Food Tours, progressive dinners that combine art, history and fine food. On Friday, those participating in the special tour already had stopped at downtown food locations before heading to the monument.
After Cary sang, Kristina Belliveau of Kristina’s Kreations served cupcakes in the monument’s seldom-seen brick basement. The dessert was accompanied by wine.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Belliveau. “I’ve never done cupcakes under the tomb of a president before.”
The food tour — larger than most of Abbott’s tours — was a fundraiser that raised $2,500 for Jackson High School for the Arts. The school has programs for students in theater, dance, visual arts, instrumental music and vocal training.
“I went on one of Barb’s food tours last summer and loved it,” said Susie Gardner, director. “She said she wanted to do something really big at the end of her first year (of tours), so I suggested we get together for a fundraiser. We settled on 75 people for $75 each. Our tickets sold out in 12 hours.”
None of those on the tour knew ahead of time the location of the stop that would conclude the tour, although Abbott said she dropped hints throughout the evening. The group arrived at the monument a little before 10 p.m.
Abbott said that “Nearer, My God, To Thee” has several ties to McKinley, connections that made it an appropriate song to sing within his tomb.
“It was his favorite hymn,” she said, noting that his affinity for the song was most obvious after his assassination in 1901. “When he was on his deathbed, he is supposed to have uttered lines to that hymn.” History records that when the president finally died, groups and individuals spontaneously began singing the song. “It’s amazing to think that wherever the casket went, as it passed through communities, people would sing or play ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee.’ ”
Cary said that performing the hymn in the rotunda of the president’s final resting place was emotional.
“I love Canton, and I know McKinley did, as well,” said Cary. “It was such a meaningful experience, because it’s a sacred place. I really felt connected to the people. And the sound was excellent. The rotunda has really good acoustics. Your voice just rings through it.”
Page 2 of 2 - SEE THE SINGING
To watch a video of Brittany Cary singing “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq60Bti9Psc&feature=youtu.be